The Entire March Family Trilogy
William Dean Howells
Part 14 out of 21
"Not at all!" cried the young man. "I should like the upper berth
better. We'll, have the steward change the sheets."
"Oh, I'll see that he does that," said Mr. Triscoe. "I couldn't allow
you to take any trouble about it." He now looked as if he wished Burnamy
would go, and leave him to his domestic arrangements.
In telling about himself Burnamy touched only upon the points which he
believed would take his listener's intelligent fancy, and he stopped so
long before he had tired him that March said he would like to introduce
him to his wife. He saw in the agreeable young fellow an image of his
own youth, with some differences which, he was willing to own, were to
the young fellow's advantage. But they were both from the middle West;
in their native accent and their local tradition they were the same; they
were the same in their aspirations; they were of one blood in their
literary impulse to externate their thoughts and emotions.
Burnamy answered, with a glance at his enamelled shoes, that he would be
delighted, and when her husband brought him up to her, Mrs. March said
she was always glad to meet the contributors to the magazine, and asked
him whether he knew Mr. Kendricks, who was her favorite. Without giving
him time to reply to a question that seemed to depress him, she said that
she had a son who must be nearly his own age, and whom his father had
left in charge of 'Every Other Week' for the few months they were to be
gone; that they had a daughter married and living in Chicago. She made
him sit down by her in March's chair, and before he left them March heard
him magnanimously asking whether Mr. Kendricks was going to do something
more for the magazine soon. He sauntered away and did not know how
quickly Burnamy left this question to say, with the laugh and blush which
became him in her eyes:
"Mrs. March, there is something I should like to tell you about, if you
will let me."
"Why, certainly, Mr. Burnamy," she began, but she saw that he did not
wish her to continue.
"Because," he went on, "it's a little matter that I shouldn't like to go
He told her of his having overheard what Miss Triscoe had said to her
father, and his belief that she was talking about the lower berth. He
said he would have wished to offer it, of course, but now he was afraid
they might think he had overheard them and felt obliged to do it.
"I see," said Mrs. March, and she added, thoughtfully, "She looks like
rather a proud girl."
"Yes," the young fellow sighed.
"She is very charming," she continued, thoughtfully, but not so
"Well," Burnamy owned, "that is certainly one of the complications," and
they laughed together.
She stopped herself after saying, "I see what you mean," and suggested,
"I think I should be guided by circumstances. It needn't be done at
once, I suppose."
"Well," Burnamy began, and then he broke out, with a laugh of
embarrassment, "I've done it already."
"Oh! Then it wasn't my advice, exactly, that you wanted."
"And how did he take it?"
"He said he should be glad to make the exchange if I really didn't mind."
Burnamy had risen restlessly, and she did not ask him to stay. She
"Oh, well, I'm glad it turned out so nicely."
"I'm so glad you think it was the thing to do." He managed to laugh
again, but he could not hide from her that he was not feeling altogether
satisfied. "Would you like me to send Mr. March, if I see him?" he
asked, as if he did not know on what other terms to get away.
"Do, please!" she entreated, and it seemed to her that he had hardly left
her when her husband came up. "Why, where in the world did he find you
"Did you send him for me? I was just hanging round for him to go." March
sank into the chair at her side. "Well, is he going to marry her?"
"Oh, you may laugh! But there is something very exciting!" She told him
what had happened, and of her belief that Burnamy's handsome behavior had
somehow not been met in kind.
March gave himself the pleasure of an immense laugh. "It seems to me
that this Mr. Burnamy of yours wanted a little more gratitude than he was
entitled to. Why shouldn't he have offered him the lower berth? And why
shouldn't the old gentleman have taken it just as he did? Did you want
him to make a counteroffer of his daughter's hand? If he does, I hope
Mr. Burnamy won't come for your advice till after he's accepted her."
"He wasn't very candid. I hoped you would speak about that. Don't you
think it was rather natural, though?"
"For him, very likely. But I think you would call it sinuous in some one
you hadn't taken a fancy to."
"No, no. I wish to be just. I don't see how he could have come straight
at it. And he did own up at last." She asked him what Burnamy had done
for the magazine, and he could remember nothing but that one small poem,
yet unprinted; he was rather vague about its value, but said it had
"He has temperament, too," she commented, and she had made him tell her
everything he knew, or could be forced to imagine about Burnamy, before
she let the talk turn to other things.
The life of the promenade had already settled into seafaring form; the
steamer chairs were full, and people were reading or dozing in them with
an effect of long habit. Those who would be walking up and down had
begun their walks; some had begun going in and out of the smoking-room;
ladies who were easily affected by the motion were lying down in the
music-room. Groups of both sexes were standing at intervals along the
rail, and the promenaders were obliged to double on a briefer course or
work slowly round them. Shuffleboard parties at one point and ring-toss
parties at another were forming among the young people. It was as lively
and it was as dull as it would be two thousand miles at sea. It was not
the least cooler, yet; but if you sat still you did not suffer.
In the prompt monotony the time was already passing swiftly. The deck-
steward seemed hardly to have been round with tea and bouillon, and he
had not yet gathered up all the empty cups, when the horn for lunch
sounded. It was the youngest of the table-stewards who gave the summons
to meals; and whenever the pretty boy appeared with his bugle, funny
passengers gathered round him to make him laugh, and stop him from
winding it. His part of the joke was to fulfill his duty with gravity,
and only to give way to a smile of triumph as he walked off.
At lunch, in the faded excitement of their first meeting, the people at
the Marches' table did not renew the premature intimacy of their
breakfast talk. Mrs. March went to lie down in her berth afterwards, and
March went on deck without her. He began to walk to and from the barrier
between the first and second cabin promenades; lingering near it, and
musing pensively, for some of the people beyond it looked as intelligent
and as socially acceptable, even to their clothes, as their pecuniary
betters of the saloon.
There were two women, a mother and daughter, whom he fancied to be
teachers, by their looks, going out for a little rest, or perhaps for a
little further study to fit them more perfectly for their work. They
gazed wistfully across at him whenever he came up to the barrier; and he
feigned a conversation with them and tried to convince them that the
stamp of inferiority which their poverty put upon them was just, or if
not just, then inevitable. He argued with them that the sort of barrier
which here prevented their being friends with him, if they wished it, ran
invisibly through society everywhere but he felt ashamed before their
kind, patient, intelligent faces, and found himself wishing to excuse the
fact he was defending. Was it any worse, he asked them, than their not
being invited to the entertainments of people in upper Fifth Avenue? He
made them own that if they were let across that barrier the whole second
cabin would have a logical right to follow; and they were silenced. But
they continued to gape at him with their sincere, gentle eyes whenever he
returned to the barrier in his walk, till he could bear it no longer, and
strolled off toward the steerage.
There was more reason why the passengers there should be penned into a
little space of their own in the sort of pit made by the narrowing deck
at the bow. They seemed to be all foreigners, and if any had made their
fortunes in our country they were hiding their prosperity in the return
to their own. They could hardly have come to us more shabby and squalid
than they were going away; but he thought their average less apathetic
than that of the saloon passengers, as he leaned over the rail and looked
down at them. Some one had brought out an electric battery, and the
lumpish boys and slattern girls were shouting and laughing as they
writhed with the current. A young mother seated flat on the deck, with
her bare feet stuck out, inattentively nursed her babe, while she laughed
and shouted with the rest; a man with his head tied in a shawl walked
about the pen and smiled grotesquely with the well side of his toothache-
swollen face. The owner of the battery carried it away, and a group of
little children, with blue eyes and yellow hair, gathered in the space he
had left, and looked up at a passenger near March who was eating some
plums and cherries which he had brought from the luncheon table. He
began to throw the fruit down to them, and the children scrambled for it.
An elderly man, with a thin, grave, aquiline face, said, "I shouldn't
want a child of mine down there."
"No," March responded, "it isn't quite what one would choose for one's
own. It's astonishing, though, how we reconcile ourselves to it in the
case of others."
"I suppose it's something we'll have to get used to on the other side,"
suggested the stranger.
"Well," answered March, "you have some opportunities to get used to it on
this side, if you happen to live in New York," and he went on to speak of
the raggedness which often penetrated the frontier of comfort where he
lived in Stuyvesant Square, and which seemed as glad of alms in food or
money as this poverty of the steerage.
The other listened restively like a man whose ideals are disturbed.
"I don't believe I should like to live in New York, much," he said, and
March fancied that he wished to be asked where he did live. It appeared
that he lived in Ohio, and he named his town; he did not brag of it, but
he said it suited him. He added that he had never expected to go to
Europe, but that he had begun to run down lately, and his doctor thought
he had better go out and try Carlsbad.
March said, to invite his further confidence, that this was exactly his
own case. The Ohio man met the overture from a common invalidism as if
it detracted from his own distinction; and he turned to speak of the
difficulty, he had in arranging his affairs for leaving home. His heart
opened a little with the word, and he said how comfortable he and his
wife were in their house, and how much they both hated to shut it up.
When March offered him his card, he said he had none of his own with him,
but that his name was Eltwin. He betrayed a simple wish to have March
realize the local importance he had left behind him; and it was not hard
to comply; March saw a Grand Army button in the lapel of his coat, and he
knew that he was in the presence of a veteran.
He tried to guess his rank; in telling his wife about him, when he went
down to find her just before dinner, but he ended with a certain sense of
affliction. "There are too many elderly invalids on this ship. I knock
against people of my own age everywhere. Why aren't your youthful lovers
more in evidence, my dear? I don't believe they are lovers, and I begin
to doubt if they're young even."
"It wasn't very satisfactory at lunch, certainly," she owned. "But I
know it will be different at dinner." She was putting herself together
after a nap that had made up for the lost sleep of the night before.
"I want you to look very nice, dear. Shall you dress for dinner?" she
asked her husband's image in the state-room glass which she was
"I shall dress in my pea-jacket and sea-boots," it answered.
"I have heard that they always dress for dinner on the big Cunard and
White Star boats, when it's good weather," she went on, placidly.
"I shouldn't want those people to think you were not up in the
They both knew that she meant the reticent father and daughter, and March
flung out, "I shouldn't want them to think you weren't. There's such a
thing as overdoing."
She attacked him at another point. "What has annoyed you? What else
have you been doing?"
"Nothing. I've been reading most of the afternoon."
"The Maiden Knight?"
This was the book which nearly everybody had brought on board. It was
just out, and had caught an instant favor, which swelled later to a tidal
wave. It depicted a heroic girl in every trying circumstance of
mediaeval life, and gratified the perennial passion of both sexes for
historical romance, while it flattered woman's instinct of superiority by
the celebration of her unintermitted triumphs, ending in a preposterous
and wholly superfluous self-sacrifice.
March laughed for pleasure in her guess, and she pursued, "I suppose you
didn't waste time looking if anybody had brought the last copy of 'Every
"Yes, I did; and I found the one you had left in your steamer chair--for
advertising purposes, probably."
"Mr. Burnamy has another," she said. "I saw it sticking out of his
pocket this morning."
"Oh, yes. He told me he had got it on the train from Chicago to see if
it had his poem in it. He's an ingenuous soul--in some ways."
"Well, that is the very reason why you ought to find out whether the men
are going to dress, and let him know. He would never think of it
"Neither would I," said her husband.
"Very well, if you wish to spoil his chance at the outset," she sighed.
She did not quite know whether to be glad or not that the men were all in
sacks and cutaways at dinner; it saved her, from shame for her husband
and Mr. Burnamy; but it put her in the wrong. Every one talked; even the
father and daughter talked with each other, and at one moment Mrs. March
could not be quite sure that the daughter had not looked at her when she
spoke. She could not be mistaken in the remark which the father
addressed to Burnamy, though it led to nothing.
The dinner was uncommonly good, as the first dinner out is apt to be; and
it went gayly on from soup to fruit, which was of the American abundance
and variety, and as yet not of the veteran freshness imparted by the ice-
closet. Everybody was eating it, when by a common consciousness they
were aware of alien witnesses. They looked up as by a single impulse,
and saw at the port the gaunt face of a steerage passenger staring down
upon their luxury; he held on his arm a child that shared his regard with
yet hungrier eyes. A boy's nose showed itself as if tiptoed to the
height of the man's elbow; a young girl peered over his other arm.
The passengers glanced at one another; the two table-stewards, with their
napkins in their hands, smiled vaguely, and made some indefinite
The bachelor at the head of the table broke the spell. "I'm glad it
didn't begin with the Little Neck clams!"
"Probably they only let those people come for the dessert," March
The widow now followed the direction of the other eyes; and looked up
over her shoulder; she gave a little cry, and shrank down. The young
bride made her petted mouth, in appeal to the company; her husband looked
severe, as if he were going to do something, but refrained, not to make a
scene. The reticent father threw one of his staccato glances at the
port, and Mrs. March was sure that she saw the daughter steal a look at
The young fellow laughed. "I don't suppose there's anything to be done
about it, unless we pass out a plate."
Mr. Kenby shook his head. "It wouldn't do. We might send for the
captain. Or the chief steward."
The faces at the port vanished. At other ports profiles passed and
repassed, as if the steerage passengers had their promenade under them,
but they paused no more.
The Marches went up to their steamer chairs, and from her exasperated
nerves Mrs. March denounced the arrangement of the ship which had made
such a cruel thing possible.
"Oh," he mocked, "they had probably had a good substantial meal of their
own, and the scene of our banquet was of the quality of a picture, a
purely aesthetic treat. But supposing it wasn't, we're doing something
like it every day and every moment of our lives. The Norumbia is a piece
of the whole world's civilization set afloat, and passing from shore to
shore with unchanged classes, and conditions. A ship's merely a small
stage, where we're brought to close quarters with the daily drama of
"Well, then," she protested, "I don't like being brought to close
quarters with the daily drama of humanity, as you call it. And I don't
believe that the large English ships are built so that the steerage
passengers can stare in at the saloon windows while one is eating; and
I'm sorry we came on the Norumbia."
"Ah, you think the Norumbia doesn't hide anything," he began, and he was
going to speak of the men in the furnace pits of the steamer, how they
fed the fires in a welding heat, and as if they had perished in it crept
out on the forecastle like blanched phantasms of toil; but she interposed
"If there's anything worse, for pity's sake don't tell me," she
entreated, and he forebore.
He sat thinking how once the world had not seemed to have even death in
it, and then how as he had grown older death had come into it more and
more, and suffering was lurking everywhere, and could hardly be kept out
of sight. He wondered if that young Burnamy now saw the world as he used
to see it, a place for making verse and making love, and full of beauty
of all kinds waiting to be fitted with phrases. He had lived a happy
life; Burnamy would be lucky if he should live one half as happy; and yet
if he could show him his whole happy life, just as it had truly been,
must not the young man shrink from such a picture of his future?
"Say something," said his wife. "What are you thinking about?"
"Oh, Burnamy," he answered, honestly enough.
"I was thinking about the children," she said. "I am glad Bella didn't
try to come from Chicago to see us off; it would have been too silly; she
is getting to be very sensible. I hope Tom won't take the covers off the
furniture when he has the fellows in to see him."
"Well, I want him to get all the comfort he can out of the place, even if
the moths eat up every stick of furniture."
"Yes, so do I. And of course you're wishing that you were there with
him!" March laughed guiltily. "Well, perhaps it was a crazy thing for
us to start off alone for Europe, at our age."
"Nothing of the kind," he retorted in the necessity he perceived for
staying her drooping spirits. "I wouldn't be anywhere else on any
account. Isn't it perfectly delicious? It puts me in mind of that night
on the Lake Ontario boat, when we were starting for Montreal. There was
the same sort of red sunset, and the air wasn't a bit softer than this."
He spoke of a night on their wedding-journey when they were sill new
enough from Europe to be comparing everything at home with things there.
"Well, perhaps we shall get into the spirit of it again," she said, and
they talked a long time of the past.
All the mechanical noises were muffled in the dull air, and the wash of
the ship's course through the waveless sea made itself pleasantly heard.
In the offing a steamer homeward bound swam smoothly by, so close that
her lights outlined her to the eye; she sent up some signal rockets that
soared against the purple heaven in green and crimson, and spoke to the
Norumbia in the mysterious mute phrases of ships that meet in the dark.
Mrs. March wondered what had become of Burnamy; the promenades were much
freer now than they had been since the ship sailed; when she rose to go
below, she caught sight of Burnamy walking the deck transversely with
some lady. She clutched her husband's arm and stayed him in rich
"Do you suppose he can have got her to walking with him already?"
They waited till Burnamy and his companion came in sight again. She was
tilting forward, and turning from the waist, now to him and now from him.
"No; it's that pivotal girl," said March; and his wife said, "Well, I'm
glad he won't be put down by them."
In the music-room sat the people she meant, and at the instant she passed
on down the stairs, the daughter was saying to the father, "I don't see
why you didn't tell me sooner, papa."
"It was such an unimportant matter that I didn't think to mention it.
He offered it, and I took it; that was all. What difference could it
have made to you?"
"None. But one doesn't like to do any one an injustice."
"I didn't know you were thinking anything about it."
"No, of course not."
The voyage of the Norumbia was one of those which passengers say they
have never seen anything like, though for the first two or three days out
neither the doctor nor the deck-steward could be got, to prophesy when
the ship would be in. There was only a day or two when it could really
be called rough, and the sea-sickness was confined to those who seemed
wilful sufferers; they lay on the cushioned benching around the stairs-
landing, and subsisted on biscuit and beef tea without qualifying the
monotonous well-being of the other passengers, who passed without
The second morning there was rain, and the air freshened, but the leaden
sea lay level as before. The sun shone in the afternoon; with the sunset
the fog came thick and white; the ship lowed dismally through the night;
from the dense folds of the mist answering noises called back to her.
Just before dark two men in a dory shouted up to her close under her
bows, and then melted out of sight; when the dark fell the lights of
fishing-schooners were seen, and their bells pealed; once loud cries from
a vessel near at hand made themselves heard. Some people in the dining-
saloon sang hymns; the smoking-room was dense with cigar fumes, and the
card-players dealt their hands in an atmosphere emulous of the fog
The Norumbia was off the Banks, and the second day of fog was cold as if
icebergs were haunting the opaque pallor around her. In the ranks of
steamer chairs people lay like mummies in their dense wrappings; in the
music-room the little children of travel discussed the different lines of
steamers on which they had crossed, and babes of five and seven disputed
about the motion on the Cunarders and White Stars; their nurses tried in
vain to still them in behalf of older passengers trying to write letters
By the next morning the ship had run out of the fog; and people who could
keep their feet said they were glad of the greater motion which they
found beyond the Banks. They now talked of the heat of the first days
out, and how much they had suffered; some who had passed the night on
board before sailing tried to impart a sense of their misery in trying to
A day or two later a storm struck the ship, and the sailors stretched
canvas along the weather promenade and put up a sheathing of boards
across the bow end to keep off the rain. Yet a day or two more and the
sea had fallen again and there was dancing on the widest space of the lee
The little events of the sea outside the steamer offered themselves in
their poor variety. Once a ship in the offing, with all its square sails
set, lifted them like three white towers from the deep. On the rim of
the ocean the length of some westward liner blocked itself out against
the horizon, and swiftly trailed its smoke out of sight. A few tramp
steamers, lounging and lunging through the trough of the sea, were
overtaken and left behind; an old brigantine passed so close that her
rusty iron sides showed plain, and one could discern the faces of the
people on board.
The steamer was oftenest without the sign of any life beyond her. One
day a small bird beat the air with its little wings, under the roof of
the promenade, and then flittered from sight over the surface, of the
waste; a school of porpoises, stiff and wooden in their rise, plunged
clumsily from wave to wave. The deep itself had sometimes the unreality,
the artificiality of the canvas sea of the theatre. Commonly it was
livid and cold in color; but there was a morning when it was delicately
misted, and where the mist left it clear, it was blue and exquisitely
iridescent under the pale sun; the wrinkled waves were finely pitted by
the falling spray. These were rare moments; mostly, when it was not like
painted canvas, is was hard like black rock, with surfaces of smooth
cleavage. Where it met the sky it lay flat and motionless, or in the
rougher weather carved itself along the horizon in successions of surges.
If the sun rose clear, it was overcast in a few hours; then the clouds
broke and let a little sunshine through, to close again before the dim
evening thickened over the waters. Sometimes the moon looked through the
ragged curtain of vapors; one night it seemed to shine till morning, and
shook a path of quicksilver from the horizon to the ship. Through every
change, after she had left the fog behind, the steamer drove on with the
pulse of her engines (that stopped no more than a man's heart stops) in a
course which had nothing to mark it but the spread of the furrows from
her sides, and the wake that foamed from her stern to the western verge
of the sea.
The life of the ship, like the life of the sea, was a sodden monotony,
with certain events which were part of the monotony. In the morning the
little steward's bugle called the passengers from their dreams, and half
an hour later called them to their breakfast, after such as chose had
been served with coffee by their bedroom-stewards. Then they went on
deck, where they read, or dozed in their chairs, or walked up and down,
or stood in the way of those who were walking; or played shuffleboard and
ring-toss; or smoked, and drank whiskey and aerated waters over their
cards and papers in the smoking-room; or wrote letters in the saloon or
the music-room. At eleven o'clock they spoiled their appetites for lunch
with tea or bouillon to the music of a band of second-cabin stewards; at
one, a single blast of the bugle called them to lunch, where they glutted
themselves to the torpor from which they afterwards drowsed in their
berths or chairs. They did the same things in the afternoon that they
had done in the forenoon; and at four o'clock the deck-stewards came
round with their cups and saucers, and their plates of sandwiches, again
to the music of the band. There were two bugle-calls for dinner, and
after dinner some went early to bed, and some sat up late and had grills
and toast. At twelve the lights were put out in the saloons and the
There were various smells which stored themselves up in the consciousness
to remain lastingly relative to certain moments and places: a whiff of
whiskey and tobacco that exhaled from the door of the smoking-room; the
odor of oil and steam rising from the open skylights over the engine-
room; the scent of stale bread about the doors of the dining-saloon.
The life was like the life at a sea-side hotel, only more monotonous.
The walking was limited; the talk was the tentative talk of people aware
that there was no refuge if they got tired of one another. The flirting
itself, such as there was of it, must be carried on in the glare of the
pervasive publicity; it must be crude and bold, or not be at all.
There seemed to be very little of it. There were not many young people
on board of saloon quality, and these were mostly girls. The young men
were mainly of the smoking-room sort; they seldom risked themselves among
the steamer chairs. It was gayer in the second cabin, and gayer yet in
the steerage, where robuster emotions were operated by the accordion.
The passengers there danced to its music; they sang to it and laughed to
it unabashed under the eyes of the first-cabin witnesses clustered along
the rail above the pit where they took their rude pleasures.
With March it came to his spending many hours of each long, swift day in
his berth with a book under the convenient electric light. He was safe
there from the acquaintances which constantly formed themselves only to
fall into disintegration, and cling to him afterwards as inorganic
particles of weather-guessing, and smoking-room gossip about the ship's
In the earliest hours of the voyage he thought that he saw some faces of
the great world, the world of wealth and fashion; but these afterward
vanished, and left him to wonder where they hid themselves. He did not
meet them even in going to and from his meals; he could only imagine them
served in those palatial state-rooms whose interiors the stewards now and
then rather obtruded upon the public. There were people whom he
encountered in the promenades when he got up for the sunrise, and whom he
never saw at other times; at midnight he met men prowling in the dark
whom he never met by day. But none of these were people of the great
world. Before six o'clock they were sometimes second-cabin passengers,
whose barrier was then lifted for a little while to give them the freedom
of the saloon promenade.
From time to time he thought he would look up his Ohioan, and revive from
a closer study of him his interest in the rare American who had never
been to Europe. But he kept with his elderly wife, who had the effect of
withholding him from March's advances. Young Mr. and Mrs. Leffers threw
off more and more their disguise of a long-married pair, and became
frankly bride and groom. They seldom talked with any one else, except at
table; they walked up and down together, smiling into each others faces;
they sat side by side in their steamer chairs; one shawl covered them
both, and there was reason to believe that they were holding each other's
hands under it.
Mrs. Adding often took the chair beside Mrs. March when her husband was
straying about the ship or reading in his berth; and the two ladies must
have exchanged autobiographies, for Mrs. March was able to tell him just
how long Mrs. Adding had been a widow, what her husband died of, and what
had been done to save him; how she was now perfectly wrapt up in her boy,
and was taking him abroad, with some notion of going to Switzerland,
after the summer's travel, and settling down with him at school there.
She and Mrs. March became great friends; and Rose, as his mother called
him, attached himself reverently to March, not only as a celebrity of the
first grade in his quality of editor of 'Every Other Week', but as a sage
of wisdom and goodness, with whom he must not lose the chance of counsel
upon almost every hypothesis and exigency of life.
March could not bring himself to place Burnamy quite where he belonged in
contemporary literature, when Rose put him very high in virtue of the
poem which he heard Burnamy was going to have printed in 'Every Other
Week', and of the book which he was going to have published; and he let
the boy bring to the young fellow the flattery which can come to any
author but once, in the first request for his autograph that Burnamy
confessed to have had. They were so near in age, though they were ten
years apart, that Rose stood much more in awe of Burnamy than of others
much more his seniors. He was often in the company of Kenby, whom he
valued next to March as a person acquainted with men; he consulted March
upon Kenby's practice of always taking up the language of the country he
visited, if it were only for a fortnight; and he conceived a higher
opinion of him from March's approval.
Burnamy was most with Mrs. March, who made him talk about himself when he
supposed he was talking about literature, in the hope that she could get
him to talk about the Triscoes; but she listened in vain as he poured
out-his soul in theories of literary art, and in histories of what he had
written and what he meant to write. When he passed them where they sat
together, March heard the young fellow's perpetually recurring I, I, I,
my, my, my, me, me, me; and smiled to think how she was suffering under
the drip-drip of his innocent egotism.
She bore in a sort of scientific patience his attentions to the pivotal
girl, and Miss Triscoe's indifference to him, in which a less penetrating
scrutiny could have detected no change from meal to meal. It was only at
table that she could see them together, or that she could note any break
in the reserve of the father and daughter. The signs of this were so
fine that when she reported them March laughed in scornful incredulity.
But at breakfast the third day out, the Triscoes, with the authority of
people accustomed to social consideration, suddenly turned to the
Marches, and began to make themselves agreeable; the father spoke to
March of 'Every Other Week', which he seemed to know of in its relation
to him; and the young girl addressed herself to Mrs. March's motherly
sense not the less acceptably because indirectly. She spoke of going out
with her father for an indefinite time, as if it were rather his wish
than hers, and she made some inquiries about places in Germany; they had
never been in Germany. They had some idea of Dresden; but the idea of
Dresden with its American colony seemed rather tiresome; and did Mrs.
March know anything about Weimar?
Mrs. March was obliged to say that she knew nothing about anyplace in
Germany; and she explained perhaps too fully where and why she was going
with her husband. She fancied a Boston note in that scorn for the
tiresomeness of Dresden; but the girl's style was of New York rather than
of Boston, and her accent was not quite of either place. Mrs. March
began to try the Triscoes in this place and in that, to divine them and
to class them. She had decided from the first that they were society
people, but they were cultivated beyond the average of the few swells
whom she had met; and there had been nothing offensive in their manner of
holding themselves aloof from the other people at the table; they had a
right to do that if they chose.
When the young Lefferses came in to breakfast, the talk went on between
these and the Marches; the Triscoes presently left the table, and Mrs.
March rose soon after, eager for that discussion of their behavior which
March knew he should not be able to postpone.
He agreed with her that they were society people, but she could not at
once accept his theory that they had themselves been the objects of an
advance from them because of their neutral literary quality, through
which they were of no social world, but potentially common to any. Later
she admitted this, as she said, for the sake of argument, though what she
wanted him to see, now, was that this was all a step of the girl's toward
finding out something about Burnamy.
The same afternoon, about the time the deck-steward was making his round
with his cups, Miss Triscoe abruptly advanced upon her from a neighboring
corner of the bulkhead, and asked, with the air of one accustomed to have
her advances gratefully received, if she might sit by her. The girl took
March's vacant chair, where she had her cup of bouillon, which she
continued to hold untasted in her hand after the first sip. Mrs. March
did the same with hers, and at the moment she had got very tired of doing
it, Burnamy came by, for the hundredth time that day, and gave her a
hundredth bow with a hundredth smile. He perceived that she wished to
get rid of her cup, and he sprang to her relief.
"May I take yours too?" he said very passively to Miss Triscoe.
"You are very good." she answered, and gave it.
Mrs. March with a casual air suggested, "Do you know Mr. Burnamy, Miss
Triscoe? "The girl said a few civil things, but Burnamy did not try to
make talk with her while he remained a few moments before Mrs. March.
The pivotal girl came in sight, tilting and turning in a rare moment of
isolation at the corner of the music-room, and he bowed abruptly, and
hurried off to join her.
Miss Triscoe did not linger; she alleged the necessity of looking up her
father, and went away with a smile so friendly that Mrs. March might
easily have construed it to mean that no blame attached itself to her in
Miss Triscoe's mind.
"Then you don't feel that it was a very distinct success?" her husband
asked on his return.
"Not on the surface," she said.
"Better let ill enough alone," he advised.
She did not heed him. "All the same she cares for him. The very fact
that she was so cold shows that."
"And do you think her being cold will make him care for her?"
"If she wants it to."
At dinner that day the question of 'The Maiden Knight' was debated among
the noises and silences of the band. Young Mrs. Leffers had brought the
book to the table with her; she said she had not been able to lay it down
before the last horn sounded; in fact she could have been seen reading it
to her husband where he sat under the same shawl, the whole afternoon.
"Don't you think it's perfectly fascinating," she asked Mrs. Adding, with
her petted mouth.
"Well," said the widow, doubtfully, "it's nearly a week since I read it,
and I've had time to get over the glow."
"Oh, I could just read it forever!" the bride exclaimed.
"I like a book," said her husband, "that takes me out of myself. I don't
want to think when I'm reading."
March was going to attack this ideal, but he reflected in time that Mr.
Leffers had really stated his own motive in reading. He compromised.
"Well, I like the author to do my thinking for me."
"Yes," said the other, "that is what I mean."
"The question is whether 'The Maiden Knight' fellow does it," said Kenby,
taking duck and pease from the steward at his shoulder.
"What my wife likes in it is to see what one woman can do and be single-
handed," said March.
"No," his wife corrected him, "what a man thinks she can."
"I suppose," said Mr. Triscoe, unexpectedly, "that we're like the English
in our habit of going off about a book like a train of powder."
"If you'll say a row of bricks," March assented, "I'll agree with you.
It's certainly Anglo-Saxon to fall over one another as we do, when we get
going. It would be interesting to know just how much liking there is in
the popularity of a given book."
"It's like the run of a song, isn't it?" Kenby suggested. "You can't
stand either, when it reaches a given point."
He spoke to March and ignored Triscoe, who had hitherto ignored the rest
of the table.
"It's very curious," March said. "The book or the song catches a mood,
or feeds a craving, and when one passes or the other is glutted--"
"The discouraging part is," Triscoe put in, still limiting himself to the
Marches, "that it's never a question of real taste. The things that go
down with us are so crude, so coarsely spiced; they tickle such a vulgar
palate--Now in France, for instance," he suggested.
"Well, I don't know," returned the editor. "After all, we eat a good
deal of bread, and we drink more pure water than any other people. Even
when we drink it iced, I fancy it isn't so bad as absinthe."
The young bride looked at him gratefully, but she said, "If we can't get
ice-water in Europe, I don't know what Mr. Leffers will do," and the talk
threatened to pass among the ladies into a comparison of American and
Burnamy could not bear to let it. "I don't pretend to be very well up in
French literature," he began, "but I think such a book as 'The Maiden
Knight' isn't such a bad piece of work; people are liking a pretty well-
built story when they like it. Of course it's sentimental, and it begs
the question a good deal; but it imagines something heroic in character,
and it makes the reader imagine it too. The man who wrote that book may
be a donkey half the time, but he's a genius the other half. By-and-by
he'll do something--after he's come to see that his 'Maiden Knight' was a
fool--that I believe even you won't be down on, Mr. March, if he paints a
heroic type as powerfully as he does in this book."
He spoke with the authority of a journalist, and though he deferred to
March in the end, he deferred with authority still. March liked him for
coming to the defence of a young writer whom he had not himself learned
to like yet. "Yes," he said, "if he has the power you say, and can keep
it after he comes to his artistic consciousness!"
Mrs. Leffers, as if she thought things were going her way, smiled; Rose
Adding listened with shining eyes expectantly fixed on March; his mother
viewed his rapture with tender amusement. The steward was at Kenby's
shoulder with the salad and his entreating "Bleace!" and Triscoe seemed
to be questioning whether he should take any notice of Burnamy's general
disagreement. He said at last: "I'm afraid we haven't the documents.
You don't seem to have cared much for French books, and I haven't read
'The Maiden Knight'." He added to March: "But I don't defend absinthe.
Ice-water is better. What I object to is our indiscriminate taste both
for raw whiskey--and for milk-and-water."
No one took up the question again, and it was Kenby who spoke next.
"The doctor thinks, if this weather holds, that we shall be into Plymouth
Wednesday morning. I always like to get a professional opinion on the
In the evening, as Mrs. March was putting away in her portfolio the
journal-letter which she was writing to send back from Plymouth to her
children, Miss Triscoe drifted to the place where she sat at their table
in the dining-room by a coincidence which they both respected as casual.
"We had quite a literary dinner," she remarked, hovering for a moment
near the chair which she later sank into. "It must have made you feel
very much at home. Or perhaps you're so tired of it at home that you
don't talk about books."
"We always talk shop, in some form or other," said Mrs. March.
"My husband never tires of it. A good many of the contributors come to
us, you know."
"It must be delightful," said the girl. She added as if she ought to
excuse herself for neglecting an advantage that might have been hers if
she had chosen, "I'm sorry one sees so little of the artistic and
literary set. But New York is such a big place."
New York people seem to be very fond of it," said Mrs. March. "Those who
have always lived there."
"We haven't always lived there," said the girl. "But I think one has a
good time there--the best time a girl can have. It's all very well
coming over for the summer; one has to spend the summer somewhere. Are
you going out for a long time?"
"Only for the summer. First to Carlsbad."
"Oh, yes. I suppose we shall travel about through Germany, and then go
to Paris. We always do; my father is very fond of it."
"You must know it very well," said Mrs. March, aimlessly.
"I was born there,--if that means knowing it. I lived there--till I was
eleven years old. We came home after my mother died."
"Oh!" said Mrs. March.
The girl did not go further into her family history; but by one of those
leaps which seem to women as logical as other progressions, she arrived
at asking, "Is Mr. Burnamy one of the contributors?"
Mrs. March laughed. "He is going to be, as soon as his poem is printed."
"Yes. Mr. March thinks it's very good."
"I thought he spoke very nicely about 'The Maiden Knight'. And he has
been very nice to papa. You know they have the same room."
"I think Mr. Burnamy told me," Mrs. March said.
The girl went on. "He had the lower berth, and he gave it up to papa;
he's done everything but turn himself out of doors."
"I'm sure he's been very glad," Mrs. March ventured on Burnamy's behalf,
but very softly, lest if she breathed upon these budding confidences they
should shrink and wither away.
"I always tell papa that there's no country like America for real
unselfishness; and if they're all like that, in Chicago!" The girl
stopped, and added with a laugh, "But I'm always quarrelling with papa
"We have a daughter living in Chicago," said Mrs. March, alluringly.
But Miss Triscoe refused the bait, either because she had said all she
meant, or because she had said all she would, about Chicago, which Mrs.
March felt for the present to be one with Burnamy. She gave another of
her leaps. "I don't see why people are so anxious to get it like Europe,
at home. They say that there was a time when there were no chaperons
before hoops, you know." She looked suggestively at Mrs. March, resting
one slim hand on the table, and controlling her skirt with the other, as
if she were getting ready to rise at any moment. "When they used to sit
on their steps."
"It was very pleasant before hoops--in every way," said Mrs. March.
"I was young, then; and I lived in Boston, where I suppose it was always
simpler than in New York. I used to sit on our steps. It was delightful
for girls--the freedom."
"I wish I had lived before hoops," said Miss Triscoe.
"Well, there must be places where it's before hoops yet: Seattle, and
Portland, Oregon, for all I know," Mrs. March suggested. "And there must
be people in that epoch everywhere."
"Like that young lady who twists and turns?" said Miss Triscoe, giving
first one side of her face and then the other. "They have a good time.
I suppose if Europe came to us in one way it had to come in another. If
it came in galleries and all that sort of thing, it had to come in
chaperons. You'll think I'm a great extremist, Mrs. March; but sometimes
I wish there was more America instead of less. I don't believe it's as
bad as people say. Does Mr. March," she asked, taking hold of the chair
with one hand, to secure her footing from any caprice of the sea, while
she gathered her skirt more firmly into the other, as she rose, "does he
think that America is going--all wrong?"
"All wrong? How?"
"Oh, in politics, don't you know. And government, and all that. And
bribing. And the lower classes having everything their own way. And the
horrid newspapers. And everything getting so expensive; and no regard
for family, or anything of that kind."
Mrs. March thought she saw what Miss Triscoe meant, but she answered,
still cautiously, "I don't believe he does always. Though there are
times when he is very much disgusted. Then he says that he is getting
too old--and we always quarrel about that--to see things as they really
are. He says that if the world had been going the way that people over
fifty have always thought it was going, it would have gone to smash in
the time of the anthropoidal apes."
"Oh, yes: Darwin," said Miss Triscoe, vaguely. "Well, I'm glad he
doesn't give it up. I didn't know but I was holding out just because I
had argued so much, and was doing it out of--opposition. Goodnight!"
She called her salutation gayly over her shoulder, and Mrs. March watched
her gliding out of the saloon with a graceful tilt to humor the slight
roll of the ship, and a little lurch to correct it, once or twice, and
wondered if Burnamy was afraid of her; it seemed to her that if she were
a young man she should not be afraid of Miss Triscoe.
The next morning, just after she had arranged herself in her steamer
chair, he approached her, bowing and smiling, with the first of his many
bows and smiles for the day, and at the same time Miss Triscoe came
toward her from the opposite direction. She nodded brightly to him, and
he gave her a bow and smile too; he always had so many of them to spare.
"Here is your chair!" Mrs. March called to her, drawing the shawl out of
the chair next her own. "Mr. March is wandering about the ship
"I'll keep it for him," said Miss Triscoe, and as Burnamy offered to take
the shawl that hung in the hollow of her arm, she let it slip into his
hand with an "Oh; thank you," which seemed also a permission for him to
wrap it about her in the chair.
He stood talking before the ladies, but he looked up and down the
promenade. The pivotal girl showed herself at the corner of the music-
room, as she had done the day before. At first she revolved there as if
she were shedding her light on some one hidden round the corner; then she
moved a few paces farther out and showed herself more obviously alone.
Clearly she was there for Burnamy to come and walk with her; Mrs. March
could see that, and she felt that Miss Triscoe saw it too. She waited
for her to dismiss him to his flirtation; but Miss Triscoe kept chatting
on, and he kept answering, and making no motion to get away. Mrs. March
began to be as sorry for her as she was ashamed for him. Then she heard
him saying, "Would you like a turn or two?" and Miss Triscoe answering,
"Why, yes, thank you," and promptly getting out of her chair as if the
pains they had both been at to get her settled in it were all nothing.
She had the composure to say, "You can leave your shawl with me, Miss
Triscoe," and to receive her fervent, "Oh, thank you," before they sailed
off together, with inhuman indifference to the girl at the corner of the
music-room. Then she sank into a kind of triumphal collapse, from which
she roused herself to point her husband to the chair beside her when he
He chose to be perverse about her romance. "Well, now, you had better
let them alone. Remember Kendricks." He meant one of their young
friends whose love-affair they had promoted till his happy marriage left
them in lasting doubt of what they had done. "My sympathies are all with
the pivotal girl. Hadn't she as much right to him, for the time being,
or for good and all, as Miss Triscoe?"
"That depends upon what you think of Burnamy."
"Well, I don't like to see a girl have a young man snatched away from her
just when she's made sure of him. How do you suppose she is feeling
"She isn't feeling at all. She's letting her revolving light fall upon
half a dozen other young men by this time, collectively or consecutively.
All that she wants to make sure of is that they're young men--or old
March laughed, but not altogether at what his wife said. "I've been
having a little talk with Papa Triscoe, in the smoking-room."
"You smell like it," said his wife, not to seem too eager: "Well?"
"Well, Papa Triscoe seems to be in a pout. He doesn't think things are
going as they should in America. He hasn't been consulted, or if he has,
his opinion hasn't been acted upon."
"I think he's horrid," said Mrs. March. "Who are they?"
"I couldn't make out, and I couldn't ask. But I'll tell you what I
"That there's no chance for, Burnamy. He's taking his daughter out to
marry her to a crowned head."
It was this afternoon that the dance took place on the south promenade.
Everybody came and looked, and the circle around the waltzers was three
or four deep. Between the surrounding heads and shoulders, the hats of
the young ladies wheeling and whirling, and the faces of the men who were
wheeling and whirling them, rose and sank with the rhythm of their steps.
The space allotted to the dancing was walled to seaward with canvas, and
was prettily treated with German, and American flags: it was hard to go
wrong with flags, Miss Triscoe said, securing herself under Mrs. March's
Where they stood they could see Burnamy's face, flashing and flushing in
the dance; at the end of the first piece he came to them, and remained
talking and laughing till the music began again.
"Don't you want to try it?" he asked abruptly of Miss Triscoe.
"Isn't it rather--public?" she asked back.
Mrs. March could feel the hand which the girl had put through her arm
thrill with temptation; but Burnamy could not.
"Perhaps it is rather obvious," he said, and he made a long glide over
the deck to the feet of the pivotal girl, anticipating another young man
who was rapidly advancing from the opposite quarter. The next moment her
hat and his face showed themselves in the necessary proximity to each
other within the circle.
"How well she dances!" said Miss Triscoe.
"Do you think so? She looks as if she had been wound up and set going."
"She's very graceful," the girl persisted.
The day ended with an entertainment in the saloon for one of the marine
charities which address themselves to the hearts and pockets of
passengers on all steamers. There were recitations in English and
German, and songs from several people who had kindly consented, and ever
more piano performance. Most of those who took part were of the race
gifted in art and finance; its children excelled in the music, and its
fathers counted the gate-money during the last half of the programme,
with an audible clinking of the silver on the table before them.
Miss Triscoe was with her father, and Mrs. March was herself chaperoned
by Mr. Burnamy: her husband had refused to come to the entertainment.
She hoped to leave Burnamy and Miss Triscoe together before the evening
ended; but Miss Triscoe merely stopped with her father, in quitting the
saloon, to laugh at some features of the entertainment, as people who
take no part in such things do; Burnamy stood up to exchange some
unimpassioned words with her, and then they said good-night.
The next morning, at five o'clock, the Norumbia came to anchor in the
pretty harbor of Plymouth. In the cool early light the town lay distinct
along the shore, quaint with its small English houses, and stately with
come public edifices of unknown function on the uplands; a country-seat
of aristocratic aspect showed itself on one of the heights; on another
the tower of a country church peered over the tree-tops; there were lines
of fortifications, as peaceful, at their distance, as the stone walls
dividing the green fields. The very iron-clads in the harbor close at
hand contributed to the amiable gayety of the scene under the pale blue
English sky, already broken with clouds from which the flush of the
sunrise had not quite faded. The breath of the land came freshly out
over the water; one could almost smell the grass and the leaves. Gulls
wheeled and darted over the crisp water; the tones of the English voices
on the tender were pleasant to the ear, as it fussed and scuffled to the
ship's side. A few score of the passengers left her; with their baggage
they formed picturesque groups on the tender's deck, and they set out for
the shore waving their hands and their handkerchiefs to the friends they
left clustering along the rail of the Norumbia. Mr. and Mrs. Leffers
bade March farewell, in the final fondness inspired by his having coffee
with them before they left the ship; they said they hated to leave.
The stop had roused everybody, and the breakfast tables were promptly
filled, except such as the passengers landing at Plymouth had vacated;
these were stripped of their cloths, and the remaining commensals placed
at others. The seats of the Lefferses were given to March's old Ohio
friend and his wife. He tried to engage them in the tally which began to
be general in the excitement of having touched land; but they shyly held
Some English newspapers had come aboard from the tug, and there was the
usual good-natured adjustment of the American self-satisfaction, among
those who had seen them, to the ever-surprising fact that our continent
is apparently of no interest to Europe. There were some meagre New York
stock-market quotations in the papers; a paragraph in fine print
announced the lynching of a negro in Alabama; another recorded a coal-
mining strike in Pennsylvania.
"I always have to get used to it over again," said Kenby. "This is the
twentieth time I have been across, and I'm just as much astonished as I
was the first, to find out that they don't want to know anything about us
"Oh," said March, "curiosity and the weather both come from the west.
San Francisco wants to know about Denver, Denver about Chicago, Chicago
about New York, and New York about London; but curiosity never travels
the other way any more than a hot wave or a cold wave."
"Ah, but London doesn't care a rap about Vienna," said Kenby.
"Well, some pressures give out before they reach the coast, on our own
side. It isn't an infallible analogy."
Triscoe was fiercely chewing a morsel, as if in haste to take part in the
discussion. He gulped it, and broke out. "Why should they care about
March lightly ventured, "Oh, men and brothers, you know."
"That isn't sufficient ground. The Chinese are men and brothers; so are
the South-Americans and Central-Africans, and Hawaiians; but we're not
impatient for the latest news about them. It's civilization that
"I hope that fact doesn't leave us out in the cold with the barbarians?"
Burnamy put in, with a smile.
"Do you think we are civilized?" retorted the other.
"We have that superstition in Chicago," said Burnamy. He added, still
smiling, "About the New-Yorkers, I mean."
"You're more superstitious in Chicago than I supposed. New York is an
anarchy, tempered by vigilance committees."
"Oh, I don't think you can say that," Kenby cheerfully protested, "since
the Reformers came in. Look at our streets!"
"Yes, our streets are clean, for the time being, and when we look at them
we think we have made a clean sweep in our manners and morals. But how
long do you think it will be before Tammany will be in the saddle again?"
"Oh, never in the world!" said the optimistic head of the table.
"I wish I had your faith; or I should if I didn't feel that it is one of
the things that help to establish Tammanys with us. You will see our
Tammany in power after the next election." Kenby laughed in a large-
hearted incredulity; and his laugh was like fuel to the other's flame.
"New York is politically a mediaeval Italian republic, and it's morally a
frontier mining-town. Socially it's--" He stopped as if he could not say
"I think it's a place where you have a very nice time, papa," said his
daughter, and Burnamy smiled with her; not because he knew anything about
Her father went on as if he had not heard her. "It's as vulgar and crude
as money can make it. Nothing counts but money, and as soon as there's
enough, it counts for everything. In less than a year you'll have
Tammany in power; it won't be more than a year till you'll have it in
"Oh no! Oh no!" came from Kenby. He did not care much for society, but
he vaguely respected it as the stronghold of the proprieties and the
"Isn't society a good place for Tammany to be in?" asked March in the
pause Triscoe let follow upon Kenby's laugh.
"There's no reason why it shouldn't be. Society is as bad as all the
rest of it. And what New York is, politically, morally, and socially,
the whole country wishes to be and tries to be."
There was that measure of truth in the words which silences; no one could
find just the terms of refutation.
"Well," said Kenby at last, "it's a good thing there are so many lines to
Europe. We've still got the right to emigrate."
"Yes, but even there we don't escape the abuse of our infamous newspapers
for exercising a man's right to live where he chooses. And there is no
country in Europe--except Turkey, or Spain--that isn't a better home for
an honest man than the United States."
The Ohioan had once before cleared his throat as if he were going to
speak. Now, he leaned far enough forward to catch Triscoe's eve, and
said, slowly and distinctly: "I don't know just what reason you have to
feel as you do about the country. I feel differently about it myself--
perhaps because I fought for it."
At first, the others were glad of this arrogance; it even seemed an
answer; but Burnamy saw Miss Triscoe's cheek, flush, and then he doubted
Triscoe nervously crushed a biscuit in his hand, as if to expend a
violent impulse upon it. He said, coldly, "I was speaking from that
The Ohioan shrank back in his seat, and March felt sorry for him, though
he had put himself in the wrong. His old hand trembled beside his plate,
and his head shook, while his lips formed silent words; and his shy wife
was sharing his pain and shame.
Kenby began to talk about the stop which the Norumbia was to make at
Cherbourg, and about what hour the next day they should all be in
Cuxhaven. Miss Triscoe said they had never come on the Hanseatic Line
before, and asked several questions. Her father did not speak again, and
after a little while he rose without waiting for her to make the move
from table; he had punctiliously deferred to her hitherto. Eltwin rose
at the same time, and March feared that he might be going to provoke
another defeat, in some way.
Eltwin lifted his voice, and said, trying to catch Triscoe's eye, "I
think I ought to beg your pardon, sir. I do beg your pardon."
March perceived that Eltwin wished to make the offer of his reparation as
distinct as his aggression had been; and now he quaked for Triscoe, whose
daughter he saw glance apprehensively at her father as she swayed aside
to let the two men come together.
"That is all right, Colonel--"
"Major," Eltwin conscientiously interposed.
"Major," Triscoe bowed; and he put out his hand and grasped the hand
which had been tremulously rising toward him. "There can't be any doubt
of what we did, no matter what we've got."
"No, no!" said the other, eagerly. "That was what I meant, sir. I
don't think as you do; but I believe that a man who helped to save the
country has a right to think what he pleases about it."
Triscoe said, "That is all right, my dear sir. May I ask your regiment?"
The Marches let the old fellows walk away together, followed by the wife
of the one and the daughter of the other. They saw the young girl making
some graceful overtures of speech to the elder woman as they went.
"That was rather fine, my dear," said Mrs. March.
"Well, I don't know. It was a little too dramatic, wasn't it? It wasn't
what I should have expected of real life."
"Oh, you spoil everything! If that's the spirit you're going through
"It isn't. As soon as I touch European soil I shall reform."
That was not the first time General Triscoe had silenced question of his
opinions with the argument he had used upon Eltwin, though he was seldom
able to use it so aptly. He always found that people suffered, his
belief in our national degeneration much more readily when they knew that
he had left a diplomatic position in Europe (he had gone abroad as
secretary of a minor legation) to come home and fight for the Union.
Some millions of other men had gone into the war from the varied motives
which impelled men at that time; but he was aware that he had
distinction, as a man of property and a man of family, in doing so. His
family had improved as time passed, and it was now so old that back of
his grandfather it was lost in antiquity. This ancestor had retired from
the sea and become a merchant in his native Rhode Island port, where his
son established himself as a physician, and married the daughter of a
former slave-trader whose social position was the highest in the place;
Triscoe liked to mention his maternal grandfather when he wished a
listener to realize just how anomalous his part in a war against slavery
was; it heightened the effect of his pose.
He fought gallantly through the war, and he was brevetted Brigadier-
General at the close. With this honor, and with the wound which caused
an almost imperceptible limp in his gait, he won the heart of a rich New
York girl, and her father set him up in a business, which was not long in
going to pieces in his hands. Then the young couple went to live in
Paris, where their daughter was born, and where the mother died when the
child was ten years old. A little later his father-in-law died, and
Triscoe returned to New York, where he found the fortune which his
daughter had inherited was much less than he somehow thought he had a
right to expect.
The income from her fortune was enough to live on, and he did not go back
to Paris, where, in fact, things were not so much to his mind under the
Republic as they had been under the Second Empire. He was still willing
to do something for his country, however, and he allowed his name to be
used on a citizen's ticket in his district; but his provision-man was
sent to Congress instead. Then he retired to Rhode Island and attempted
to convert his shore property into a watering-place; but after being
attractively plotted and laid out with streets and sidewalks, it allured
no one to build on it except the birds and the chipmonks, and he came
back to New York, where his daughter had remained in school.
One of her maternal aunts made her a coming-out tea, after she left
school; and she entered upon a series of dinners, dances, theatre
parties, and receptions of all kinds; but the tide of fairy gold pouring
through her fingers left no engagement-ring on them. She had no duties,
but she seldom got out of humor with her pleasures; she had some odd
tastes of her own, and in a society where none but the most serious books
were ever seriously mentioned she was rather fond of good ones, and had
romantic ideas of a life that she vaguely called bohemian. Her character
was never tested by anything more trying than the fear that her father
might take her abroad to live; he had taken her abroad several times for
The dreaded trial did not approach for several years after she had ceased
to be a bud; and then it came when her father was again willing to serve
his country in diplomacy, either at the Hague, or at Brussels, or even at
Berne. Reasons of political geography prevented his appointment
anywhere, but General Triscoe having arranged his affairs for going
abroad on the mission he had expected, decided to go without it. He was
really very fit for both of the offices he had sought, and so far as a
man can deserve public place by public service, he had deserved it.
His pessimism was uncommonly well grounded, and if it did not go very
deep, it might well have reached the bottom of his nature.
His daughter had begun to divine him at the early age when parents
suppose themselves still to be mysteries to their children. She did not
think it necessary ever to explain him to others; perhaps she would not
have found it possible; and now after she parted from Mrs. Eltwin and
went to sit down beside Mrs. March she did not refer to her father. She
said how sweet she had found the old lady from Ohio; and what sort of
place did Mrs. March suppose it was where Mrs. Eltwin lived? They seemed
to have everything there, like any place. She had wanted to ask Mrs.
Eltwin if they sat on their steps; but she had not quite dared.
Burnamy came by, slowly, and at Mrs. March's suggestion he took one of
the chairs on her other side, to help her and Miss Triscoe look at the
Channel Islands and watch the approach of the steamer to Cherbourg, where
the Norumbia was to land again. The young people talked across Mrs.
March to each other, and said how charming the islands were, in their
gray-green insubstantiality, with valleys furrowing them far inward, like
airy clefts in low banks of clouds. It seemed all the nicer not to know
just which was which; but when the ship drew nearer to Cherbourg, he
suggested that they could see better by going round to the other side of
the ship. Miss Triscoe, as at the other times when she had gone off with
Burnamy, marked her allegiance, to Mrs. March by leaving a wrap with her.
Every one was restless in breaking with the old life at sea. There had
been an equal unrest when the ship first sailed; people had first come
aboard in the demoralization of severing their ties with home, and they
shrank from forming others. Then the charm of the idle, eventless life
grew upon them, and united them in a fond reluctance from the inevitable
Now that the beginning of the end had come, the pangs of disintegration
were felt in all the once-more-repellant particles. Burnamy and Miss
Triscoe, as they hung upon the rail, owned to each other that they hated
to have the voyage over. They had liked leaving Plymouth and being at
sea again; they wished that they need not be reminded of another
debarkation by the energy of the crane in hoisting the Cherbourg baggage
from the hold.
They approved of the picturesqueness of three French vessels of war that
passed, dragging their kraken shapes low through the level water. At
Cherbourg an emotional French tender came out to the ship, very different
in her clamorous voices and excited figures from the steady self-control
of the English tender at Plymouth; and they thought the French
fortifications much more on show than the English had been. Nothing
marked their youthful date so much to the Marches, who presently joined
them, as their failure to realize that in this peaceful sea the great
battle between the Kearsarge and the Alabama was fought. The elder
couple tried to affect their imaginations with the fact which reanimated
the spectre of a dreadful war for themselves; but they had to pass on
and, leave the young people unmoved.
Mrs. March wondered if they noticed the debarkation of the pivotal girl,
whom she saw standing on the deck of the tender, with her hands at her
waist, and giving now this side and now that side of her face to the
young men waving their hats to her from the rail of the ship. Burnamy
was not of their number, and he seemed not to know that the girl was
leaving him finally to Miss Triscoe. If Miss Triscoe knew it she did
nothing the whole of that long, last afternoon to profit by the fact.
Burnamy spent a great part of it in the chair beside Mrs. March, and he
showed an intolerable resignation to the girl's absence.
"Yes," said March, taking the place Burnamy left at last, "that terrible
patience of youth!"
"Patience? Folly! Stupidity! They ought to be together every instant!
Do they suppose that life is full of such chances? Do they think that
fate has nothing to do but--"
She stopped for a fit climax, and he suggested, "Hang round and wait on
"Yes! It's their one chance in a life-time, probably."
"Then you've quite decided that they're in love?" He sank comfortably
back, and put up his weary legs on the chair's extension with the
conviction that love had no such joy as that to offer.
"I've decided that they're intensely interested in each other."
"Then what more can we ask of them? And why do you care what they do or
don't do with their chance? Why do you wish their love well, if it's
that? Is marriage such a very certain good?"
"It isn't all that it might be, but it's all that there is. What would
our lives have been without it?" she retorted.
"Oh, we should have got on. It's such a tremendous risk that we, ought
to go round begging people to think twice, to count a hundred, or a
nonillion, before they fall in love to the marrying-point. I don't mind
their flirting; that amuses them; but marrying is a different thing.
I doubt if Papa Triscoe would take kindly to the notion of a son-in-law
he hadn't selected himself, and his daughter doesn't strike me as a young
lady who has any wisdom to throw away on a choice. She has her little
charm; her little gift of beauty, of grace, of spirit, and the other
things that go with her age and sex; but what could she do for a fellow
like Burnamy, who has his way to make, who has the ladder of fame to
climb, with an old mother at the bottom of it to look after? You
wouldn't want him to have an eye on Miss Triscoe's money, even if she had
money, and I doubt if she has much. It's all very pretty to have a girl
like her fascinated with a youth of his simple traditions; though Burnamy
isn't altogether pastoral in his ideals, and he looks forward to a place
in the very world she belongs to. I don't think it's for us to promote
"Well, perhaps you're right," she sighed. "I will let them alone from
this out. Thank goodness, I shall not have them under my eyes very
"Oh, I don't think there's any harm done yet," said her husband, with a
At dinner there seemed so little harm of the kind he meant that she
suffered from an illogical disappointment. The young people got through
the meal with no talk that seemed inductive; Burnamy left the table
first, and Miss Triscoe bore his going without apparent discouragement;
she kept on chatting with March till his wife took him away to their
chairs on deck.
There were a few more ships in sight than there were in mid-ocean; but
the late twilight thickened over the North Sea quite like the night after
they left New York, except that it was colder; and their hearts turned to
their children, who had been in abeyance for the week past, with a
remorseful pang. "Well, she said, "I wish we were going to be in New
York to-morrow, instead of Hamburg."
"Oh, no! Oh, no!" he protested. "Not so bad as that, my dear. This is
the last night, and it's hard to manage, as the last night always is. I
suppose the last night on earth--"
"Basil!" she implored.
"Well, I won't, then. But what I want is to see a Dutch lugger. I've
never seen a Dutch lugger, and--"
She suddenly pressed his arm, and in obedience to the signal he was
silent; though it seemed afterwards that he ought to have gone on talking
as if he did not see Burnamy and Miss Triscoe swinging slowly by. They
were walking close together, and she was leaning forward and looking up
into his face while he talked.
"Now," Mrs. March whispered, long after they were out of hearing, "let us
go instantly. I wouldn't for worlds have them see us here when they get
found again. They would feel that they had to stop and speak, and that
would spoil everything. Come!"
Burnamy paused in a flow of autobiography, and modestly waited for Miss
Triscoe's prompting. He had not to wait long.
"And then, how soon did you think of printing your things in a book?"
"Oh, about as soon as they began to take with the public."
"How could you tell that they were-taking?"
"They were copied into other papers, and people talked about them."
"And that was what made Mr. Stoller want you to be his secretary?"
"I don't believe it was. The theory in the office was that he didn't
think much of them; but he knows I can write shorthand, and put things
"Oh--ideas. He has a notion of trying to come forward in politics. He
owns shares in everything but the United States Senate--gas, electricity,
railroads, aldermen, newspapers--and now he would like some Senate.
That's what I think."
She did not quite understand, and she was far from knowing that this
cynic humor expressed a deadlier pessimism than her father's fiercest
accusals of the country. "How fascinating it is!" she said, innocently.
"And I suppose they all envy your coming out?"
"In the office?"
"Yes. I should envy, them--staying."
Burnamy laughed. "I don't believe they envy me. It won't be all roses
for me--they know that. But they know that I can take care of myself if
it isn't." He remembered something one of his friends in the office had
said of the painful surprise the Bird of Prey would feel if he ever tried
his beak on him in the belief that he was soft.
She abruptly left the mere personal question. "And which would you
rather write: poems or those kind of sketches?"
"I don't know," said Burnamy, willing to talk of himself on any terms.
"I suppose that prose is the thing for our time, rather more; but there
are things you can't say in prose. I used to write a great deal of verse
in college; but I didn't have much luck with editors till Mr. March took
this little piece for 'Every Other Week'."
"Little? I thought it was a long poem!"
Burnamy laughed at the notion. "It's only eight lines."
"Oh!" said the girl. "What is it about?"
He yielded to the temptation with a weakness which he found incredible in
a person of his make. "I can repeat it if you won't give me away to Mrs.
"Oh, no indeed!" He said the lines over to her very simply and well."
They are beautiful--beautiful!"
"Do you think so?" he gasped, in his joy at her praise.
"Yes, lovely. Do you know, you are the first literary man--the only
literary man--I ever talked with. They must go out--somewhere! Papa
must meet them at his clubs. But I never do; and so I'm making the most
"You can't make too much of me, Miss Triscoe," said Burnamy.
She would not mind his mocking. "That day you spoke about 'The Maiden
Knight', don't you know, I had never heard any talk about books in that
way. I didn't know you were an author then."
"Well, I'm not much of an author now," he said, cynically, to retrieve
his folly in repeating his poem to her.
"Oh, that will do for you to say. But I know what Mrs. March thinks."
He wished very much to know what Mrs. March thought, too; 'Every Other
Week' was such a very good place that he could not conscientiously
neglect any means of having his work favorably considered there; if Mrs.
March's interest in it would act upon her husband, ought not he to know
just how much she thought of him as a writer? "Did she like the poem."
Miss Triscoe could not recall that Mrs. March had said anything about the
poem, but she launched herself upon the general current of Mrs. March's
liking for Burnamy. "But it wouldn't do to tell you all she said!"
This was not what he hoped, but be was richly content when she returned
to his personal history. "And you didn't know any one when, you went up
to Chicago from--"
"Tippecanoe? Not exactly that. I wasn't acquainted with any one in the
office, but they had printed somethings of mine, and they were willing to
let me try my hand. That was all I could ask."
"Of course! You knew you could do the rest. Well, it is like a romance.
A woman couldn't have such an adventure as that!" sighed the girl.
"But women do!" Burnamy retorted. "There is a girl writing on the paper
now--she's going to do the literary notices while I'm gone--who came to
Chicago from Ann Arbor, with no more chance than I had, and who's made
her way single-handed from interviewing up."
"Oh," said Miss Triscoe, with a distinct drop in her enthusiasm.
"Is she nice?"
"She's mighty clever, and she's nice enough, too, though the kind of
journalism that women do isn't the most dignified. And she's one of the
best girls I know, with lots of sense."
"It must be very interesting," said Miss Triscoe, with little interest in
the way she said it. "I suppose you're quite a little community by
"On the paper?"
"Well, some of us know one another, in the office, but most of us don't.
There's quite a regiment of people on a big paper. If you'd like to come
out," Burnamy ventured, "perhaps you could get the Woman's Page to do."
"Oh, fashion; and personal gossip about society leaders; and recipes for
dishes and diseases; and correspondence on points of etiquette."
He expected her to shudder at the notion, but she merely asked, "Do women
He laughed reminiscently. "Well, not always. We had one man who used to
do it beautifully--when he was sober. The department hasn't had any
permanent head since."
He was sorry he had said this, but it did not seem to shock her, and no
doubt she had not taken it in fully. She abruptly left the subject.
"Do you know what time we really get in to-morrow?"
"About one, I believe--there's a consensus of stewards to that effect,
anyway." After a pause he asked, "Are you likely to be in Carlsbad?"
"We are going to Dresden, first, I believe. Then we may go on down to
Vienna. But nothing is settled, yet."
"Are you going direct to Dresden?"
"I don't know. We may stay in Hamburg a day or two."
"I've got to go straight to Carlsbad. There's a sleeping-car that will
get me there by morning: Mr. Stoller likes zeal. But I hope you'll let
me be of use to you any way I can, before we part tomorrow."
"You're very kind. You've been very good already--to papa."
He protested that he had not been at all good. "But he's used to taking
care of himself on the other side. Oh, it's this side, now!"
"So it is! How strange that seems! It's actually Europe. But as long
as we're at sea, we can't realize it. Don't you hate to have experiences
slip through your fingers?"
"I don't know. A girl doesn't have many experiences of her own; they're
always other people's."
This affected Burnamy as so profound that he did not question its truth.
He only suggested, "Well; sometimes they make other people have the
Whether Miss Triscoe decided that this was too intimate or not she left
the question. "Do you understand German?"
"A little. I studied it at college, and I've cultivated a sort of beer-
garden German in Chicago. I can ask for things."
"I can't, except in French, and that's worse than English, in Germany,
"Then you must let me be your interpreter up to the last moment. Will
She did not answer. "It must be rather late, isn't it?" she asked. He
let her see his watch, and she said, "Yes, it's very late," and led the
way within. "I must look after my packing; papa's always so prompt, and
I must justify myself for making him let me give up my maid when we left
home; we expect to get one in Dresden. Good-night!"
Burnamy looked after her drifting down their corridor, and wondered
whether it would have been a fit return for her expression of a sense of
novelty in him as a literary man if he had told her that she was the
first young lady he had known who had a maid. The fact awed him; Miss
Triscoe herself did not awe him so much.
The next morning was merely a transitional period, full of turmoil and
disorder, between the broken life of the sea and the untried life of the
shore. No one attempted to resume the routine of the voyage. People
went and came between their rooms and the saloons and the decks, and were
no longer careful to take their own steamer chairs when they sat down for
In the cabins the berths were not made up, and those who remained below
had to sit on their hard edges, or on the sofas, which were cumbered
with, hand-bags and rolls of shawls. At an early hour after breakfast
the bedroom stewards began to get the steamer trunks out and pile them in
the corridors; the servants all became more caressingly attentive; and
people who had left off settling the amount of the fees they were going
to give, anxiously conferred together. The question whether you ought
ever to give the head steward anything pressed crucially at the early
lunch, and Kenby brought only a partial relief by saying that he always
regarded the head steward as an officer of the ship. March made the
experiment of offering him six marks, and the head steward took them
quite as if he were not an officer of the ship. He also collected a
handsome fee for the music, which is the tax levied on all German ships
beyond the tolls exacted on the steamers of other nations.
After lunch the flat shore at Cuxhaven was so near that the summer
cottages of the little watering-place showed through the warm drizzle
much like the summer cottages of our own shore, and if it had not been
for the strange, low sky, the Americans might easily have fancied
themselves at home again.
Every one waited on foot while the tender came out into the stream where
the Norumbia had dropped anchor. People who had brought their hand-
baggage with them from their rooms looked so much safer with it that
people who had left theirs to their stewards had to go back and pledge
them afresh not to forget it. The tender came alongside, and the
transfer of the heavy trunks began, but it seemed such an endless work
that every one sat down in some other's chair. At last the trunks were
all on the tender, and the bareheaded stewards began to run down the
gangways with the hand-baggage. "Is this Hoboken?" March murmured in his
wife's ear, with a bewildered sense of something in the scene like the
reversed action of the kinematograph.
On the deck of the tender there was a brief moment of reunion among the
companions of the voyage, the more intimate for their being crowded
together under cover from the drizzle which now turned into a dashing
rain. Burnamy's smile appeared, and then Mrs. March recognized Miss
Triscoe and her father in their travel dress; they were not far from
Burnamy's smile, but he seemed rather to have charge of the Eltwins, whom
he was helping look after their bags and bundles. Rose Adding was
talking with Kenby, and apparently asking his opinion of something; Mrs.
Adding sat near them tranquilly enjoying her son.
Mrs. March made her husband identify their baggage, large and small, and
after he had satisfied her, he furtively satisfied himself by a fresh
count that it was all there. But he need not have taken the trouble;
their long, calm bedroom-steward was keeping guard over it; his eyes
expressed a contemptuous pity for their anxiety, whose like he must have
been very tired of. He brought their handbags into the customs-room at
the station where they landed; and there took a last leave and a last fee
with unexpected cordiality.
Again their companionship suffered eclipse in the distraction which the
customs inspectors of all countries bring to travellers; and again they
were united during the long delay in the waiting-room, which was also the
restaurant. It was full of strange noises and figures and odors--the
shuffling of feet, the clash of crockery, the explosion of nervous German
voices, mixed with the smell of beer and ham, and the smoke of cigars.
Through it all pierced the wail of a postman standing at the door with a
letter in his hand and calling out at regular intervals, "Krahnay,
Krahnay! "When March could bear it no longer he went up to him and
shouted, "Crane! Crane!" and the man bowed gratefully, and began to cry,
"Kren! Kren!" But whether Mr. Crane got his letter or not, he never
People were swarming at the window of the telegraph-office, and sending
home cablegrams to announce their safe arrival; March could not forbear
cabling to his son, though he felt it absurd. There was a great deal of
talking, but no laughing, except among the Americans, and the girls
behind the bar who tried to understand, what they wanted, and then served
them with what they chose for them. Otherwise the Germans, though
voluble, were unsmiling, and here on the threshold of their empire the
travellers had their first hint of the anxious mood which seems habitual
with these amiable people.
Mrs. Adding came screaming with glee to March where he sat with his wife,
and leaned over her son to ask, "Do you know what lese-majesty is? Rose
is afraid I've committed it!"
"No, I don't," said March. "But it's the unpardonable sin. What have
you been doing?"
"I asked the official at the door when our train would start, and when he
said at half past three, I said, 'How tiresome!' Rose says the railroads
belong to the state here, and that if I find fault with the time-table,
it's constructive censure of the Emperor, and that's lese-majesty." She
gave way to her mirth, while the boy studied March's face with an
"Well, I don't think you'll be arrested this time, Mrs. Adding; but I
hope it will be a warning to Mrs. March. She's been complaining of the
"Indeed I shall say what I like," said Mrs. March. "I'm an American."
"Well, you'll find you're a German, if you like to say anything
disagreeable about the coffee in the restaurant of the Emperor's railroad
station; the first thing you know I shall be given three months on your
Mrs. Adding asked: "Then they won't punish ladies? There, Rose! I'm
safe, you see; and you're still a minor, though you are so wise for your
She went back to her table, where Kenby came and sat down by her.
"I don't know that I quite like her playing on that sensitive child,",
said Mrs. March. "And you've joined with her in her joking. Go and
speak, to him!"
The boy was slowly following his mother, with his head fallen. March
overtook him, and he started nervously at the touch of a hand on his
shoulder, and then looked gratefully up into the man's face. March tried
to tell him what the crime of lese-majesty was, and he said: "Oh, yes.
I understood that. But I got to thinking; and I don't want my mother to
take any risks."
"I don't believe she will, really, Rose. But I'll speak to her, and tell
her she can't be too cautious."
"Not now, please!" the boy entreated.
"Well, I'll find another chance," March assented. He looked round and
caught a smiling nod from Burnamy, who was still with the Eltwins; the
Triscoes were at a table by themselves; Miss Triseoe nodded too, but her
father appeared not to see March. "It's all right, with Rose," he said,
when he sat down again by his wife; "but I guess it's all over with
Burnamy," and he told her what he had seen. "Do you think it came to any
displeasure between them last night? Do you suppose he offered himself,
"What nonsense!" said Mrs. March, but she was not at peace. "It's her
father who's keeping her away from him."
"I shouldn't mind that. He's keeping her away from us, too." But at
that moment Miss Triscoe as if she had followed his return from afar,
came over to speak to his wife. She said they were going on to Dresden
that evening, and she was afraid they might have no chance to see each
other on the train or in Hamburg. March, at this advance, went to speak
with her father; he found him no more reconciled to Europe than America.
"They're Goths," he said of the Germans. "I could hardly get that stupid
brute in the telegraph-office to take my despatch."
On his way back to his wife March met Miss Triscoe; he was not altogether
surprised to meet Burnamy with her, now. The young fellow asked if he
could be of any use to him, and then he said he would look him up in the
train. He seemed in a hurry, but when he walked away with Miss Triscoe
he did not seem in a hurry.
March remarked upon the change to his wife, and she sighed, "Yes, you can
see that as far as they're concerned."
"It's a great pity that there should be parents to complicate these
affairs," he said. "How simple it would be if there were no parties to
them but the lovers! But nature is always insisting upon fathers and
mothers, and families on both sides."
The long train which they took at last was for the Norumbia's people
alone, and it was of several transitional and tentative types of cars.
Some were still the old coach-body carriages; but most were of a strange
corridor arrangement, with the aide at the aide, and the seats crossing
from it, with compartments sometimes rising to the roof, and sometimes
rising half-way. No two cars seemed quite alike, but all were very
comfortable; and when the train began to run out through the little sea-
side town into the country, the old delight of foreign travel began.
Most of the houses were little and low and gray, with ivy or flowering
vines covering their walls to their browntiled roofs; there was here and
there a touch of Northern Gothic in the architecture; but usually where
it was pretentious it was in the mansard taste, which was so bad with us
a generation ago, and is still very bad in Cuxhaven.
The fields, flat and wide, were dotted with familiar shapes of Holstein
cattle, herded by little girls, with their hair in yellow pigtails. The
gray, stormy sky hung low, and broke in fitful rains; but perhaps for the
inclement season of mid-summer it was not very cold. Flowers were
blooming along the embankments and in the rank green fields with a dogged
energy; in the various distances were groups of trees embowering cottages
and even villages, and always along the ditches and watercourses were
double lines of low willows. At the first stop the train made, the
passengers flocked to the refreshment-booth, prettily arranged beside the
station, where the abundance of the cherries and strawberries gave proof
that vegetation was in other respects superior to the elements. But it
was not of the profusion of the sausages, and the ham which openly in
slices or covertly in sandwiches claimed its primacy in the German
affections; every form of this was flanked by tall glasses of beer.
A number of the natives stood by and stared unsmiling at the train, which
had broken out in a rash of little American flags at every window. This
boyish display, which must have made the Americans themselves laugh, if
their sense of humor had not been lost in their impassioned patriotism,
was the last expression of unity among the Norumbia's passengers, and
they met no more in their sea-solidarity. Of their table acquaintance
the Marches saw no one except Burnamy, who came through the train looking
for them. He said he was in one of the rear cars with the Eltwins, and
was going to Carlsbad with them in the sleeping-car train leaving Hamburg
at seven. He owned to having seen the Triscoes since they had left
Cuxhaven; Mrs. March would not suffer herself to ask him whether they
were in the same carriage with the Eltwins. He had got a letter from
Mr. Stoller at Cuxhaven, and he begged the Marches to let him engage
rooms for them at the hotel where he was going to stay with him.
After they reached Hamburg they had flying glimpses of him and of others
in the odious rivalry to get their baggage examined first which seized
upon all, and in which they no longer knew one another, but selfishly
struggled for the good-will of porters and inspectors. There was really
no such haste; but none could govern themselves against the general
frenzy. With the porter he secured March conspired and perspired to win
the attention of a cold but not unkindly inspector. The officer opened
one trunk, and after a glance at it marked all as passed, and then there
ensued a heroic strife with the porter as to the pieces which were to go
to the Berlin station for their journey next day, and the pieces which
were to go to the hotel overnight. At last the division was made; the
Marches got into a cab of the first class; and the porter, crimson and
steaming at every pore from the physical and intellectual strain, went
back into the station.
They had got the number of their cab from the policeman who stands at the
door of all large German stations and supplies the traveller with a
metallic check for the sort of vehicle he demands. They were not proud,
but it seemed best not to risk a second-class cab in a strange city, and
when their first-class cab came creaking and limping out of the rank,
they saw how wise they had been, if one of the second class could have
As they rattled away from the station they saw yet another kind of
turnout, which they were destined to see more and more in the German
lands. It was that team of a woman harnessed with a dog to a cart which
the women of no other country can see without a sense of personal insult.
March tried to take the humorous view, and complained that they had not
been offered the choice of such an equipage by the policeman, but his
wife would not be amused. She said that no country which suffered such a
thing could be truly civilized, though he made her observe that no city
in the world, except Boston or Brooklyn, was probably so thoroughly
trolleyed as Hamburg. The hum of the electric car was everywhere, and
everywhere the shriek of the wires overhead; batlike flights of
connecting plates traversed all the perspectives through which they drove
to the pleasant little hotel they had chosen.
On one hand their windows looked toward a basin of the Elbe, where
stately white swans were sailing; and on the other to the new Rathhaus,
over the trees that deeply shaded the perennial mud of a cold, dim public
garden, where water-proof old women and impervious nurses sat, and
children played in the long twilight of the sour, rain-soaked summer of
the fatherland. It was all picturesque, and within-doors there was the
novelty of the meagre carpets and stalwart furniture of the Germans, and
their beds, which after so many ages of Anglo-Saxon satire remain
immutably preposterous. They are apparently imagined for the stature of
sleepers who have shortened as they broadened; their pillows are
triangularly shaped to bring the chin tight upon the breast under the
bloated feather bulk which is meant for covering, and which rises over
the sleeper from a thick substratum of cotton coverlet, neatly buttoned
into the upper sheet, with the effect of a portly waistcoat.
The hotel was illumined by the kindly splendor of the uniformed portier,
who had met the travellers at the door, like a glowing vision of the
past, and a friendly air diffused itself through the whole house. At the
dinner, which, if not so cheap as they had somehow hoped, was by no means
bad, they took counsel with the English-speaking waiter as to what
entertainment Hamburg could offer for the evening, and by the time they
had drunk their coffee they had courage for the Circus Renz, which seemed
to be all there was.
The conductor of the trolley-car, which they hailed at the street corner,
stopped it and got off the platform, and stood in the street until they
were safely aboard, without telling them to step lively, or pulling them
up the steps; or knuckling them in the back to make them move forward.
He let them get fairly seated before be started the car, and so lost the
fun of seeing them lurch and stagger violently, and wildly clutch each
other for support. The Germans have so little sense of humor that
probably no one in the car would have been amused to see the strangers
flung upon the floor. No one apparently found it droll that the
conductor should touch his cap to them when he asked for their fare; no
one smiled at their efforts to make him understand where they wished to
go, and he did not wink at the other passengers in trying to find out.
Whenever the car stopped he descended first, and did not remount till the
dismounting passenger had taken time to get well away from it. When the
Marches got into the wrong car in coming home, and were carried beyond
their street, the conductor would not take their fare.
The kindly civility which environed them went far to alleviate the
inclemency of the climate; it began to rain as soon as they left the
shelter of the car, but a citizen of whom they asked the nearest way to
the Circus Renz was so anxious to have them go aright that they did not
mind the wet, and the thought of his goodness embittered March's self-
reproach for under-tipping the sort of gorgeous heyduk, with a staff like
a drum-major's, who left his place at the circus door to get their
tickets. He brought them back with a magnificent bow, and was then as
visibly disappointed with the share of the change returned to him as a
child would have been.
They went to their places with the sting of his disappointment rankling
in their hearts. "One ought always to overpay them," March sighed, "and
I will do it from this time forth; we shall not be much the poorer for
it. That heyduk is not going to get off with less than a mark when we
come out." As an earnest of his good faith he gave the old man who
showed them to their box a tip that made him bow double, and he bought
every conceivable libretto and play-bill offered him at prices fixed by
"One ought to do it," he said. "We are of the quality of good geniuses
to these poor souls; we are Fortune in disguise; we are money found in
the road. It is an accursed system, but they are more its victims than
we." His wife quite agreed with him, and with the same good conscience
between them they gave themselves up to the pure joy which the circus,
of all modern entertainments, seems alone to inspire. The house was full
from floor to roof when they came ins and every one was intent upon the
two Spanish clowns, Lui-Lui and Soltamontes, whose drolleries spoke the
universal language of circus humor, and needed no translation into either
German or English. They had missed by an event or two the more patriotic
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